Understanding Flexible Seating in the Classroom

Dec 10, 2018 by

If there’s one thing almost every classroom is guaranteed to have it’s a desk and chair. Whether students sit at tables in small groups or have individual work spaces, every classroom needs a space for students to focus and work efficiently. But if there’s one thing educators know about the learning process it’s that no two students learn the same way. While some students are visual learners, others work best using audio cues or learn kinesthetically. Most early education classrooms are self-contained, meaning students spend most of their time in one room learning various subjects. If this is the case, then that one room should be comfortable and functional. Flexible seating is the newest advancement in classroom arrangement. Read on to discover what it is and how it benefits students and teachers.

What is Flexible Seating?

Flexible seating is exactly what it sounds like. Different seating options available throughout the room for students to utilize. These can vary depending on the classroom make-up, teacher preference, and student need. Some popular flexible seating materials include large pillows alongside desks lowered to the ground, exercise balls, and stools. Generally, a flexible seating classroom offers students three or more options for seating. The idea is to offer students a comfortable and productive workspace.

What are the Benefits?

Here are just a few benefits of flexible seating and reasons to incorporate it into your classroom.

Gives Students the Power of Choice

By offering several choices, crafted by the teacher, regardless of which one the student selects, it will align with the teacher’s goals and classroom rules. On the flip side, the student will feel empowered and in control of what’s happening to and around them. They can choose who they work with and when they want to move to a new position. Flexible seating also helps students solve problems and work in changing environments.

Expands Friendships

When students sit at the same desk or table throughout the entire school year, they’re missing out on the opportunity to build new friendships and relationships. Flexible seating gives students the opportunity to work with fellow classmates every day. This promotes socialization, communication skills, and can even boost confidence. Flexible seating helps expand a student’s comfort zone in a safe and healthy way. They might find themselves working with someone they’d never considered before. This also promotes acceptance and empathy.

Offers Comfort to Promote Productivity

If students are uncomfortable, they aren’t focused and their productivity is directly impacted. A comfortable student can focus on the task at hand without distraction. An uncomfortable student is only focused on their legs or back hurting, their chair making noise on the floor, or how tired they are. All of these thoughts cloud their mind and their ability to approach the task at hand and succeed. Some students are most comfortable standing while they work at a high desk or counter while others find comfort in a bean bag chair or soft couch. Non-traditional desks will require innovative writing and work surfaces so consider bringing numerous clipboards into the classroom.

Promotes Physical Health

Physical health is an important part of a student’s educational experience. From remaining active to eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, students are constantly growing and need sufficient stimulation and activity. Flexible seating supports this and prevents students from sitting for too long at any one time. They have the freedom and ability to move throughout the room and find the most comfortable seating arrangement for them. Flexible seating can also reduce strain on young student’s necks and backs. Endless hours being hunched over a table or slouching in their chair isn’t good for their bodies. In between seat rotation, try incorporating some stretches for students. Have them reach down and touch their toes and rotate their necks. You can find out more about stretches that benefit the lower back here.

Improves Communication

A teacher’s life and classroom can get quite busy and hectic. When this happens, some students may feel that their voice isn’t heard. Flexible seating can improve communication between fellow students as well as between the teacher and students. Students have the opportunity to explore different parts of the classroom and interact with different people. Teachers can also move throughout the classroom more easily and attend to those students in need. You can get down on a students level, sit beside them in a bean bag chair or on an exercise ball. This form of communication makes you appear more approachable. This helps students relate better to you and develop a deeper level of trust. And with trust, comes improved communication.

Benefits Children with Learning Challenges

Students that struggle to learn in a traditional classroom can benefit significantly from flexible seating. A common issue students struggle with is ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) which is marked by the inability to focus, concentrate, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity. Flexible seating caters to those students who have a difficult time sitting still or focusing on the task at hand. Often times, students that are overly hyper need to move constantly. While handheld gadgets like fidget spinners are great, some students need to physically move their entire bodies. Standing desks allow students to rock back and forth, tap their feet, or move form one foot to another. Incorporate flexible seating options with different fabrics and textures, such as soft pillows or bean bags made of leather. Different students will react to different materials so consider your specific students’ needs and make accommodations as needed.

If you’re looking for a creative way to switch things up in your classroom or help a particularly challenging group of students achieve their greatest potential, perhaps flexible seating is the answer. Not only does it foster creativity and productivity, but it helps students focus and expands their communication skills and acceptance of others. Remember, you can still include normal classroom desks and chairs amongst your flexible seating options since some students flourish in a traditional classroom setting.

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